St. Michael’s Remembers Edward J. R. Jackman, OP (1940-2021)

St. Michael’s Remembers Edward J. R. Jackman, OP (1940-2021)

The following reflection was written by St. Michael’s Interim Principal Dr. Mark McGowan.

Three people sit together at a table indoors
From left to right: Dr. Mark McGowan, Dr. Laura Smith, and Fr. Edward J. R. Jackman, OP.

In the biography of Newton Wesley Rowell, the former leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, there is a photograph taken of Rowell, in 1940, with his infant grandson in his arms. The baby in question was Edward Jackman, the newest addition to the family of entrepreneur Henry Jackman and Mary Coyne Rowell. The Rowells had been scions of the Methodist Church and later, in 1925, joined the United Church of Canada. Ed was educated at Upper Canada College and, in the family tradition, at Victoria College, in the University of Toronto. He was an avid outdoorsman, football player, and opera lover. But he also wrestled deeply with his spirituality. He eventually left the United Church and became a Roman Catholic. He taught briefly at Woodroffe Secondary School in Ottawa before beginning his journey to become a Catholic priest and a member of the Dominican religious order (Order Preachers). He served as a librarian for the Dominican missionary order in Nigeria, but before he was able to complete his work, he contracted malaria and had to return to Canada.

His love of the humanities, performing arts, and history in particular led to his active engagement in the Canadian Catholic Historical Association. As the CCHA struggled in the late 1970s, Father Ed gave generously to the Association’s upkeep and eventually served as its President from 1980-1982. After serving two more years as President General, he assumed the new permanent position of Secretary General and was aided in this work by Evelyn Cronin O’Neill, Florence Fecteau, and more recently Valerie Burke. His work gave structure to the association’s programs, annual meetings, special conferences, and publications, while ensuring that the Association was placed on sound financial footing. In 2000, he was the deserving recipient of the George Edward Clerk Medallion, given biannually for distinguished service to the writing of the history of the Catholic Church.

Fr. Edward J. R. Jackman, OP in the robes of his order
Fr. Edward J. R. Jackman, OP

His passion for supporting others in the writing of history, particularly religious history, was boundless. Always mindful of his spiritual roots, he became active as a benefactor and participant in the Canadian Methodist Historical Society and was a prominent financial supporter of the Methodist history project culminating with Neil Semple’s seminal The Lord’s Dominion (1996). He was also one of the principal architects and benefactors of the double volumed The Irish in Canada: The Untold Story (1988). The Jackman Foundation also subsidized the publication of two volumes per year in the McGill-Queen’s University Press Studies in the History of Religion Series, which to date has published over 100 volumes, over half of which have benefitted from the largesse of the Jackman Foundation. There are countless young Canadian historians who have been the recipients of Father Ed’s kindness and generosity.

Among his many projects, the University of Toronto was always close to his heart. Both his alma mater Victoria College and the University of St. Michael’s College have been grateful recipients of his generosity. For over thirty years he has supported teaching and learning in SMC’s Celtic Studies Program, the Faculty of Theology, and the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. When his health permitted, he was a regular shopper at the annual Friends of the Kelly Library Book Sale, and he was often in attendance at USMC events, conferences, and celebrations. In his last days Kathryn Elton, Director of Advancement, and Interim Principal Mark McGowan, were able to visit Father Ed, via zoom, and express the College’s gratitude for all he has done. We will all miss him. May he rest in peace.